familiar phenomenon: the uncertainty resulting from the merger tends to flatten out CPA firms'normally, clearly defined hierarchical structures; that is, ``fear'' of the future makes everyone morequantitatively equal ± especially as the new firm eliminates staff and layers of management.According to Clawson (1996), in the context of emerging organizational structures and rapidtechnological change with confusing professional anchor points, professionals of approximately thesame age and experience level should be involved in mentoring activities, especially as teamworkprojects replace the natural competitiveness toward a bureaucratic pyramid.
Mergers and stress
Little (1998), Thompson (1998), Ashkanasy and Holmes (1995), and others indicate that today'scontinuous wave of mergers, acquisitions and corporate restructurings(i.e. corporate downsizing)put increased demands on employees and management personnel.Recently, the American Management Association (1998)reported that personnel who ``survived''corporate downsizing need help in adapting to their new corporate environments and the manychanges that ensue. However, employees often seem to ``resist'' this change, particularly when acorporate culture is about to undergo a major transformation. Thompson (1998)notes further thatthe biggest challenge facing corporations after a merger is the integration of corporate cultures.Similarly, Little (1998)stresses that ``workforce alignment'' of their prior cultures is the majorchallenge facing merged companies.
Siegel et al. (1994)show that mentoring helps employees refine their organizational role, preparesthem for advancement and provides a psycho-social sphere in which they receive role modelingcounseling and friendship. Changing circumstances or proteÂgeÂ s' needs may cause relationshipsto end or shift to new phases (Kram, 1983). Mergers, transfers, restructuring or promotions, or otherorganizational changes can alter the context of mentoring relationships (Scandura and Siegel,1995). The outcome of mentoring change can cause feelings of loss or anxiety as individuals separatefrom such relationships (Phillips-Jones, 1983). Mentoring relationships entering the termination orredemption phase fail to perform the central functions that previously gave the mentoring suchimportance (Kram, 1983).According to Clawson (1996), as organizations flatten and bureaucratic pyramids transform intoovals and circles, personnel often look more toward their peers for guidance. This is especially truefor more formal organizations with more distinct pyramids, but the finding also applies to less formalones. However, many senior personnel may not understand, identify or even want to encourage thisnew organizational environment. Further, later career personnel often lack the technical skills thatfrequently are becoming an integral part of these flatter organizational structures (e.g. working inteams).
Prior studies have shown the potential of peer relationships. Kram's (1985)intensive review study of pairs of junior and senior managers who were involved in mentoring relationships found thatsubordinate and peer relationships could provide alternatives to mentoring relationships, since manyparticipants indicated the importance of peer relationships when mentoring relationships ended,changed or failed to meet critical developmental needs.Scandura and Siegel (1995)found that peer relationships seemed to act like mentoring duringcorporate mergers, and that individuals likely will have more peer relationships than mentors in arapidly developing hierarchical corporate culture resulting from mergers. Reducing hierarchicaldimensions in peer relationships expedited communications, mutual support and collaboration. The present research focuses on how peer relationships function among CPA professionals during